UFC 239 is officially in the books. The event included title fights, knockouts, records tied, records broken, and dreams shattered. Join us as we recap the entire event fight-by-fight.
UFC 239 Post-Event Full Recap
Jon Jones (C) vs. Thiago Santos
In the lead-up to yet another Jon Jones title fight, the narrative for his match-up against Thiago Santos didn’t differ much from his last fight. Jones was once again portrayed as an unstoppable force, while Santos was known to be a former middleweight with KO power. And per the usual, the term “shock the world” was tossed around on the basis that ‘anything can happen in MMA.’
Early into the first round, Thiago Santos began landing heavy leg kicks on Jones. This wasn’t a terrible strategy. A striker like Santos can stand to greatly benefit from landing any type of leg kick on a man built like Jones. The champion has long and thin legs that are naturally going to be susceptible to low kicks; particularly low calf kicks. They don’t call him “Bones” for nothing. Unfortunately for the challenger, it wasn’t long before Santos’s left knee appeared to buckle. Joe Rogan openly speculated that Santos might’ve torn his ACL. Having experienced the same injury himself, he was familiar with what the effects of such an injury might look like. Santos continued to fight afterwards, but his balance was noticeably hindered, presumably from the perceived injury.
As the fight continued into the later rounds, one aspect of the battle came as a surprise to many. Jones only once attempted to take down the “Muay Thai black belt”. Thiago Santos is well known for his dangerous striking and his ability to knock his opponents out. He’s not known for a having an overly advanced ground game. Whereas Jones has proven to have unusually effective take downs against many top wrestlers. Despite all of this, Jones would fight Santos and beat him at his own game, albeit via split-decision. Of note, this was Jon Jones’ third fight in a little over six months. Seeing as this is Jones’ 8th year competing at the championship level, his active schedule as of late is a rarity and quite impressive.
Amanda Nunes (C) vs. Holly Holm
Holly Holm was the last remaining former UFC bantamweight champion that Amanda Nunes had not yet beaten. After UFC 239, that is no longer the case. Amanda Nunes stood with the former boxer and kickboxer, defeating her via first round TKO. Not only did she get the TKO finish, but she was able to achieve it by landing a head kick. This shot was similar to the one Holm landed when she finished Ronda Rousey four years ago. To put it mildly, everything about the win was impressive.
What Else is Left?
With contractual issues preventing a Cris “Cyborg” Justino-Amanda Nunes rematch, the question must be asked: Who’s next? Or perhaps the more appropriate inquiry should be ‘who else is left?’ When asked about a future opponent by Chael Sonnen on the ESPN+ post-show broadcast, Nunes struggled to come up with an answer outside of ‘Cyborg’. Regardless of who will be next, one thing remains clear. Amanda Nunes intends on defending both of her belts and she doesn’t plan on abandoning either post anytime soon.
With her latest title defense, Nunes is riding a nine-fight winning streak and has now defended the UFC bantamweight title four times. She’s also tied with Ronda Rousey and Joanna Jedrzejczyk with the most female title wins at six. She will undoubtedly have increased motivation going into her next title defense where she can attempt to break that record.
Jorge Masvidal vs. Ben Askren
In a fight that was billed as a grudge match, Ben Askren and Jorge Masvidal arguably drew the most fan and media attention on the UFC 239 fight card. Askren has never been a bigger name than he is currently, and neither has Masvidal. For these athletes to meet each other at this high point in both of their careers, it was like capturing lighting in a bottle.
As the fight was about to start, Jorge Masvidal could be seen smiling and talking to Askren from across the cage. The fight began and Masvidal sprinted across the mat to throw a flying knee at “Funky.” Askren dropped for a takedown at the same time, the knee landed flush. Jorge Masvidal laid out Ben Askren via flying knee KO at five seconds into the very first round. Askren was out cold about two seconds into the fight, but the bout was officially waved off at five seconds. Jorge Masvidal broke the record for the fastest knockout in UFC history, broke the 10-year unbeaten streak of Ben Askren, and might’ve broken the bank for the Vegas oddsmakers who listed him as a +175 underdog.
Jorge Masvidal immediately began taunting an unconscious Ben Askren as he laid stiff upon the canvas. The smile seen on Masvidal’s face before the fight began, would remain during and after the swift bout. Masvidal made his feelings on Askren clear when he spoke to Joe Rogan on the mic. “You guys are welcome for ending this dude.” Masvidal is already making a case for a title shot against current welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman. “I’m not God or nothing but I just baptized two individuals back-to-back.”
Jan Blachowicz vs. Luke Rockhold
Multiple former middleweights have experienced success with moving up to light-heavyweight in recent times. In fact, the two most recent title contenders (Thiago Santos and Anthony Smith) fought for the title shortly after jumping between the two weight classes. Former middleweight champion, Luke Rockhold decided to follow suit and try his hand at 205. His first fight would be against Poland’s Jan Blachowicz.
Full Fight Recap
After throwing a few kicks on the outside, Rockhold quickly shot in for a takedown. This exchange would force both men to work in a standing clinch against the cage. After very little success in this position, Rockhold chose to strike with Blachowicz. He performed reasonably well with this strategy until the end of the round. Right at the buzzer, Blachowicz landed a high kick that would unintentionally hit the back of Rockhold’s head. The former middleweight champ was noticeably wobbled from the impact.
Rockhold came out aggressively in the second round but Blachowicz effectively countered in multiple exchanges. As this trend continued, Blachowicz would eventually land a perfectly timed counter-left-hand on Rockhold’s jaw. He knocked the former middleweight into another dimension and symbolically danced on his grave by shouting at him afterwards. This uncharacteristically brash behavior from Blachowicz was likely due to Rockhold’s dismissive attitude towards him as an opponent in the lead-up to their fight.
Jan Blachowicz predicted he would get a second-round knockout earlier in the week. He hit the nail on the head. With this latest outcome, Luke Rockhold has now lost three of his last four via KO/TKO. In his lone victory over David Branch, he appeared to be rattled by punches early into the fight. Moving up to 205 pounds was an opportunity for a career rebirth for Rockhold, but his debut instead ended in disaster. In fact, he even reportedly suffered from a broken jaw in this fight. UFC President Dana White told the press he would prefer for Luke Rockhold to retire.
Diego Sanchez vs. Michael Chiesa
Diego Sanchez left Jackson Wink for the second time in his career and is now training exclusively with Josh Fabia. Fabia is the founder of the “School of Self-Awareness.” While it isn’t entirely clear what programs this school provides or how it may apply to mixed martial arts, Sanchez was confident enough in its benefits to have Fabia be his lone cornerman for this fight.
After recently defeating Carlos Condit in his welterweight debut, Michael Chiesa looks to have been reborn. No longer making the arduous weight-cut to 155 pounds, many believe Chiesa finally has the opportunity to reach his full potential as a mixed martial artist.
Dominance vs. Heart
Though Chiesa was able to control Sanchez throughout the entire fight, “The Nightmare” refused to be finished. In addition to fighting a much younger opponent–both in terms of age and fight miles–Sanchez was also up against a significant size disadvantage. Despite these facts, his resounding resilience that has long-preserved his status as a UFC athlete, would also help keep his head above water for the full 15 minutes. And though Sanchez displayed a ton of heart, Chiesa’s dominance was undeniable. Michael Chiesa defeated Diego Sanchez via unanimous decision. Chiesa is now 2-0 as a UFC welterweight.
Gilbert Melendez vs. Arnold Allen
While Arnold Allen was riding a seven-fight winning streak coming into UFC 239, Gilbert Melendez was on a four-fight losing streak. It had been close to two years since Melendez had last competed in the cage. He wasn’t happy with his most recent performance and he even contemplated retirement in the aftermath of the loss. It’s no secret that Melendez is 37-years-old and he isn’t getting any younger. Allen on the other hand, is 25-years-old and on the opposite end of his fighting career trajectory. To provide some perspective, Arnold Allen made his MMA debut back in 2012. This was around the same time that Melendez was about to compete in his final trilogy bout against Josh Thomson in Strikeforce.
Gilbert Melendez’ Corner: How are you feeling?
Gilbert Melendez: I don’t know.
This conversation took place in between rounds one and two of the Melendez/Allen bout. Though Melendez fought hard, the sentiment of the above conversation is a fair depiction of how the fight ultimately played out. Arnold Allen was landing body shots, calf kicks, and just about anything he wanted as the two exchanged on the feet. Melendez showed everybody that the last thing an aging fighter will lose is their heart, but he seemed lost. He was able to go the full 15 minutes, but he was unable to mount enough significant offense to warrant a victory inside of any round. Arnold Allen defeated Gilbert Melendez via unanimous decision. This was his first fight in the United States and it played out perfectly for the Englishman.
Fighting Does Not Define Me
After the loss, Gilbert Melendez told ESPN that being a fighter did not define him. He said he didn’t need it and he referenced his analyst work as one of many things he has going on outside of competing in MMA. It was the closest thing to a retirement speech that Gilbert Melendez has ever provided. Whatever he decides to do next, he has left an indelible mark on the sport of MMA.
Marlon Vera vs. Nohelin Hernandez
Marlon Vera planned to extend his three-fight winning streak to four. Originally scheduled to face fan-favorite, Sean O’Malley, his opponent was abruptly switched to Nohelin Hernandez on one-weeks’ notice. This change was made due to O’Malley’s ongoing complications with USADA. Though the circumstances of their match-up were not ideal, Marlon Vera and Nohelin Hernandez both answered the call to combat.
A Stiff Test and Another Chance
Marlon Vera was able to take Hernandez’s back in the first round, but after an unsuccessful armbar attempt from Vera, Hernandez was able to land some heavy shots at the end of the round. Hernandez would begin to take further control of the fight in the second round. But Vera was able to turn things around by landing a knee and reversing a takedown attempt from Hernandez. With the reversal, he was able to get the mount position and ultimately transition to his opponents back. From this position, he slapped on a fight-ending rear-naked-choke. Nohelin Hernandez proved to be a stiff test for “Chito.” He will surely get another chance at competing in the UFC.
Claudia Gadelha vs Randa Markos
Former strawweight title contender, Claudia Gadelha recently found herself in a bit of a rough patch. Coming into this bout, she was 1-2 in her last three fights. Her lone victory was a razor-thin split-decision victory over Carla Esparza. But according to Gadelha, the results of her last three bouts can be attributed to her move from Brazil to the United States. More specifically, it came from her inability to find a good home gym in the aftermath of her relocated residency. Up until recently, this was an ongoing dilemma. But now that she is training out of New Jersey under Mark Henry and Ricardo Almeida, she may finally be exactly where she needs to be to get back on track.
For Randa Markos, this fight against Gadelha would admittedly be the biggest fight in her career. It would also be an opportunity for Markos to get her first pair of consecutive wins in the UFC. Unfortunate for everybody involved, this bout was mostly a dull affair. The commentators would state as much as the fight played out. Claudia Gadehla defeated Randa Markos via unanimous decision with a 30-27 score on all three judge’s scorecards.
Alejandro Perez vs. Song Yadong
TUF Latin America winner, Alejandro Perez has his eyes set on winning the UFC bantamweight title. Prior to UFC 239, he had gone 7-2-1 in the UFC. With a win, Perez would prevent his first career back-to-back losses, achieve his eighth UFC victory, and potentially gain enough momentum to earn a spot on the upcoming UFC card in Mexico City. Standing in his way was Song Yadong. Although Yadong came into this fight 3-0 in the Nevada-based UFC, his bout against Perez would be his first time competing In North America. Defeating Perez—his first ranked opponent–would likely earn Yadong a spot among the top 15 bantamweights.
Intelligent Striking = Big Payoff
As is typical in a Song Yadong fight, there wasn’t much of a feeling out process. Using feints and good movement, Yadong intelligently threw and seemed to land all the right shots. It paid off in a big way. Song Yadong countered an inside leg kick with a heavy right hand that would flatten Perez. As Yadong followed a seemingly unconscious Perez to the canvas, the referee had no choice but to wave off the fight at 2:04 in the very first round. Song Yadong officially defeated Alejandro Perez via KO. At only 21-years-old, he is now 4-0 in the UFC.
Early Fight Pass Prelims
Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Jack Marshman
After his successful appearance on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, Edmen Shahbazyan had gone 2-0 in the UFC. He’d also been rightfully promoted as an undefeated knockout artist.
Protect Yourself on Saturday
His opponent was described by many as being his toughest test to date. With over 30 professional fights and two tours in Afghanistan, British Army veteran, Jack Marshman made it clear he was unafraid of the Edmond Tarverdyan protégé. Shahbazyan reported that during their intense first stare-down, Marshman asked, “you think I’m scared of you?” Shahbazyan responded, “protect yourself on Saturday.”
In hindsight, Shahbazyan’s words almost sound ominous. In the fight, he tuned up Marshman on the feet, took the fight to the ground, landed heavy ground-and-pound, took Marshman’s back, and sunk in the rear-naked choke. Edmen Shahbazyan defeated Jack Marshman via first round submission. This brutally overwhelming performance took all of 72 seconds.
Ismail Naurdiev vs. Chance Rencountre
Ismail Naurdiev said it was his dream to one day fight in Las Vegas. After a successful UFC debut back in February, he would be afforded that opportunity at UFC 239. At only 22-years-old and with a much-talked about wealth of potential, Naurdiev is a fighter who just might live up to his nickname “The Austrian Wonderboy”. And after working with top fighters like Luke Rockhold and Kamaru Usman, that should come as no surprise.
His opponent, Chance Rencountre was coming off a rear-naked-choke submission victory over Kyle Stewart back in January. Although Rencountre would come into the fight against Naurdiev as an underdog for his third-consecutive UFC bout, he confidently touted his wrestling abilities as being superior to that of his opponents’.
Two Successful Elements
Elements from both of their games proved to be successful in the first round. Naurdiev was able to land some heavy shots and would successfully scramble out of some tough grappling positions. To Rencountre’s credit, he took powerful strikes and proved to have a great chin. Towards the end of the first round, Rencountre was able to control Naurdiev with his wrestling. Into the second round, Rencountre took Naurdiev down right away and displayed more wrestling dominance. Although Ismail Naurdiev has a lot of potential, an all too common Achilles heel in relentless wrestling has been identified for the prospect. Chance Rencountre defeated Ismail Naurdiev via unanimous decision.
Julia Avila vs. Pannie Kianzad
Considered by some to be one of the better fighters outside of the UFC, Julia Avila drew some attention to her UFC 239 opening bout. Avila already held wins over number eight ranked UFC bantamweight, Marion Reneau, and former UFC flyweight champion, Nicco Montano. Originally scheduled to face Melissa Gatto, her UFC debut at UFC 239 would instead become a short-notice bout against Pannie Kianzad. Avila and Kianzad shared the same outlook regarding the nature of this bout. They both felt that they only needed to focus on themselves to get the win. Although Kianzad didn’t have a full camp, she told media members that she always stays in shape.
Watch Closely in 2020
The fight between Avila and Kianzad ultimately went all three rounds. Avila was the dominant victor over the former Cage Warriors champion. Now that she has successfully transitioned into the UFC, it will be worthwhile to keep a close eye on Julia Avila. She plans to challenge for a UFC belt in 2020 and is doing everything right thus far. Her only career loss came as a result of a compound fracture in her hand less than a minute into a 2018 Invicta FC bout. She’s otherwise been unbeaten.
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